Need medication to treat strep but can’t find it? A Charlotte pharmacist explains why

As strep cases in North Carolina rise, medications used to treat it are in short supply.

Pediatric amoxicillin, which comes in liquid form so it’s easier for children to take, was added to the Food and Drug Administration’s list of drug shortages in October, NPR reported.

Jennifer Keller, a pharmacist who owns Pike’s Pharmacy in Charlotte, said strep and other medications are scarce, too.

“There’s a shortage of medications across the board, and it’s painful,” said Keller. “I receive an order every weekday, and on any given night, there are at least five items I cannot get.”

Though demand for certain medications has spiked, Keller said the shortage can be attributed to drug manufacturers not being able to access chemicals necessary for production.

“Companies that produce the medication or that manufacture the medication are having issues getting the components they need,” Keller said. “This is a mess. An absolute mess. I’ve never seen anything like it.”

Strep cases in NC

A spike in cases typically happens from October to April every year, Dr. Amina Ahmed, chief of pediatric infectious diseases and immunology at Levine Children’s Hospital, told The Charlotte Observer.

But data show that infections are spreading more rapidly than usual.

One child died from strep infection in Mecklenburg County. Cases are on the rise.

Since October 2022, North Carolina has seen 62 pediatric infections, state data indicated. Mecklenburg County had the most cases, accounting for nine of the state’s infections. For comparison, before last year, there were an average of 15 invasive pediatric strep throat cases between October and April, according to state data from the past seven years.

How to get strep medication

Since strep throat medications are not controlled substances, patients with prescriptions can call pharmacies to see if they have them in stock, Keller said.

Patients can also consider asking their doctors to write a prescription for an alternative drug used to treat strep that is more likely to be in stock.

“For almost any condition we treat, there’s a first line drug option, but there’s also a second line drug option,” said Keller. “It would be nice if doctors could consider writing for their second line option and saving parents some of the frustration and stress.”

Other options to treat strep

Antibiotics are the best way to treat strep throat, but over-the-counter pain relievers, including Advil, Motrin and Tylenol, can help reduce pain and fever, according to Mayo Clinic.

Aspirin should not be given to children under three since it has been linked to Reye’s syndrome, a life-threatening condition that involves swelling in the liver and brain.

Here are some other ways to treat strep throat symptoms, according to Mayo Clinic:

  • Get plenty of rest

  • Drink plenty of water

  • Eat soothing foods, such as broths, soups and applesauce

  • Gargle with warm salt water

  • Use a humidifier

  • Stay away from irritants, such as cigarette smoke and paint fumes

Strep infections have impacted Mecklenburg County kids. Here’s how to keep them healthy

How to prevent strep infections

Washing your hands with soap and water is the best way to prevent strep throat infections, according to Mayo Clinic.

Teaching your children to cover their mouths when they cough or sneeze, and not sharing personal items, such as drinking glasses and eating utensils, can also reduce your risk of infection.